Creating Value for Colombia
Gran Tierra contributes to local, regional and national economic development in Colombia in many ways, including through taxes, royalties, jobs, local procurement of supplies and services, social investments, training and education programs and voluntary social and environmental programs.
In Colombia, the regions where energy resources are concentrated are often the most in need of sustained economic development. In addition to developing Colombia’s oil resources responsibly, Gran Tierra creates opportunities for employment, education, entrepreneurship and self-reliance. The company’s social efforts are aligned with government priorities of entrepreneurship and gender equity and are conducted under a framework of regionalization.
This strategy ensures that the company is not only building social and economic value in the areas where it operates, but also helping fortify the entire region to maximize the impact and sustainability of its investments.
The below projects show GTE’s strategic social investments focused on creating opportunities and generating income outside of the oil and gas industry and how they are changing lives.
Tax Revenues Directly Developing Local Territories
Works for Taxes (WFT) is a program created by the Colombian government that allows GTE to use up to 50% of its income tax contributions to directly develop and implement local projects that improve livelihoods, support economic development and help stabilize territories most affected by poverty and the previous armed conflict. WFT is also an important component of Colombia’s Territorially Focused Development Programs (PDETs) following the 2016 peace agreement signed between the FARC-EP guerrilla movement and the Colombian government. The PDETs are a vital tool for rural development and lasting territorial peace that empowers local communities to decide how funds should be invested in their territories.
Through WFT, Gran Tierra Energy is developing four projects targeting improvements of road infrastructure, education and housing in the Putumayo municipalities which experience high rates of poverty and food insecurity. Total investment for the first four projects will be over COP $10 billion. In 2020, GTE completed construction on sanitary units for families in Villagarzón, installing toilets, showers, sinks and laundry areas.
Putting Local Businesses First
GTE continues to increase opportunities for local contractors and suppliers through a strategy focusing on putting local companies first to meet its needs for goods and services, only expanding its search beyond the locality if no qualified providers are available. This also provides the companies access to programs administered in partnership with regional Chambers of Commerce to strengthen their skills and increase their capabilities.
|LOCATION||LOCAL COMPANIES HIRED||PURCHASES OF LOCAL GOODS AND SERVICES (COP)|
|Middle Magdalena Valley||29||$82 Billion|
GTE’s successful Key Partners program has evolved from a simple award given to the best performing vendors into an integrated, multi-stage program with five components. This program has led to tremendous growth in the capabilities, capacity and competitiveness of vendors in the areas where the company operates.
Components of Key Partners:
- Developing close, beneficial relationships with existing and potential vendors through continuous contact with dedicated company staff. This ensures ongoing dialogue and alignment between vendor and company.
- Dedicated high-value training offered to managers and owners of vendor companies delivered in partnership with regional Chambers of Commerce.
- Supply Chain standards that ensure GTE’s contractors are also sourcing from local suppliers.
- Performance evaluations that measure, recognize and reward 4 outstanding vendors. Facilitating relationships between contractors and local suppliers to foster a growing ecosystem of opportunities for area businesses.
Members of the Key Partners program are expected to:
- Offer high quality goods and services
- Submit competitive proposals, both in price and quality, when invited to bid
- Be a collaborative partner with the goal of ensuring that GTE operations are carried out safely and accurately
- Respect corporate decisions made by GTE or its contractors
- Understand and apply GTE’s human rights and anti-corruption policies in their business practices
- Participate in activities developed by GTE aimed at strengthening business skills
Since 2018, Gran Tierra focused on combining different social investment programs in the Middle Magdalena Valley (Encontrándo Líderes) and Putumayo (Creando Oportunidades) near where GTE operates to establish a single project, Emprender Paga. The program has become one of Gran Tierra’s main social investment projects by fostering local business development through entrepreneurship and self-employment.
This initiative was created in response to the desire of communities to recover from economic stagnation and to adopt a sustainable development strategy by rebuilding the productive capacity of their territory. Through a combination of classroom learning and hands-on experience, Emprender Paga is an education and business development program that empowers individuals, associations and community groups to develop a vision; gain confidence in their abilities; create business plans; build a team; collaborate effectively and grow successful businesses. Emprender Paga is intended not only to foster economic growth, but it also promotes strengthening values like inclusion, lawfulness and solidarity among participants.
The programs begin with providing participants with comprehensive diploma courses in leadership and business skills. A second phase follows, when participants can develop proposals for new business ideas. Once their proposals have been assessed and accepted, the aspiring entrepreneurs receive technical and business management training as they develop their craftsmanship and businesses. Gran Tierra then provides ongoing support and progress evaluations to make sure participants deliver robust business plans and are positioned to be successful.
Donde Tere Restaurant
Restaurant owner Maria Teresa Mejía used to live in a wooden shack on the outskirts of San Martín. Like many women, she hoped to be hired by GTE for work in its Acordionero operations but was not able to find a job with the company because it was already fully staffed. After hearing about Emprender Paga and participating in an initial six-month training and facilitation process, her business plan was approved. She received seed capital to open a restaurant, and her family business quickly earned enough funding to complete construction. This family business employs her husband, sister, niece and her children.
“My family and I are very grateful for all that this program has helped us with, because when we started, we just had our little timber house, falling on top of us. The training was the most important thing because we realized we had the ability to progress and learned how to improve.” MARIA TERESA MEJÍA, Donde Tere restaurant
An effort to find natural solutions to solve health, aesthetic, skin and hair problems started in Maria Esperanza Quitian’s home in Mocoa. In just five years, she has produced a complete line of top quality, locally sourced, natural beauty and health products. Kattalei’s products are meticulously manufactured and packaged in an immaculate space in Mocoa, a hilly city that sits at the intersection of the Andes mountain range and the Amazon rainforest. Kattalei was made possible by Maria’s passion, the commitment of her extended family to advance the business and the Emprender Paga program, which helped the team organize the business, network and meet important new customers.
“Emprender Paga’s process helped me organize my mind, identify our customers and break the process into sequential steps. Looking back, this has really changed the lives of my family and I, and it’s really important to have them here with me on this journey.” MARIA ESPERANZA QUITIAN, Kattalei
Sirindango, an association of largely female Indigenous artisans who work on their craft on the edge of Resguardo Condagua, located just east of Mocoa, are members of one of the oldest Indigenous Inga communities in the area. For generations, they have been making hand woven jewellery and handicrafts using traditional methods for personal use, but in 2005 they began to sell small amounts of their work. The group participated in Emprender Paga training sessions and received some seed capital to provide them with enough material to increase their production and also to construct a point of sale near the closest main road. Perhaps most importantly, Emprender Paga was able to help the group show their goods at product fairs around the country, providing critical access to a much larger set of potential buyers for this remote group. Emprender Paga’s investment was relatively small, but one with a huge impact for this burgeoning business.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without the Emprender Paga program. It offers more opportunities to keep growing the business. Our people are very happy because it’s very difficult to find a job here – and this has put up to 30 people to work.” ANNA JULIA MITICANOY, Sirindango Artesanias
The vision by a family of four female artisans from the Inga tribe was to combine their skills and build a business to help preserve the culture and tradition of Indigenous communities. The result was an artisanal jewellery and accessories business called “luiai awaspa,” which means “Weaving Thought,” in their Inga language. The business started in 2013 in the remote river town of Puerto Limón, close to GTE’s Moqueta facilities in Putumayo Department. Now, after five years of refining their skills and developing their products, the women are looking to expand into new markets and target audiences.
“Our vision is to create something beautiful and connected to our Indigenous traditions. We love showing our culture through our work and as we grow, we want to teach children this skill to help preserve our tradition.” MARCI JAMIOY, Artisan and Entrepreneur
Ligia Rosa Guerrera began a small business three years ago making arepas, a traditional Colombian food. In addition to the training and development work, initial support through the Emprender Paga program included equipment such as a stove, refrigerator, tables and plastic jars, which helped Ligia get her business off the ground.
“The support provided by Gran Tierra and the Chamber of Commerce was so important in strengthening my business and changing my life significantly.” LIGIA ROSA GUERRERA, Founder, Krisly Arepas
Juanita Meza is a single mother with three daughters aged 6 to 18 who are all involved in the family’s food business. The business turned two years old in December 2018 and is officially incorporated. She now employs two staff beyond her family and is selling hundreds of hamburgers and kilograms of pork products every week.
“When I heard about the program, I joined thinking I would just do one course. But then I saw the opportunity to strengthen my business and go further in life, so I continued with the program and ended up taking 13 classes. It’s been a pleasure getting to know these marvellous people from Consolidad and Gran Tierra who have supported my efforts to succeed in life.” JUANITA MEZA, Founder, DELISAM, San Martín
The youngest of three brothers, Byron Hernández, worked as an environmental engineer in the oil industry for several years, but he was intrigued by farming, which his father and grandfather both did. He formed an association with 36 other local pork farmers to find operational efficiencies, such as growing their own food for the pigs. This saved a huge amount of money and directed capital to local farmers rather than to outside food producers.
“In farming I saw something that really appealed to me, something that I can do and which would last. The support of Gran Tierra has been essential in the development of our business.” BYRON HERNÁNDEZ, Entrepreneur, BHG Porcíola
Mundo Creativo, a business in the municipality of Villagarzón, that was created with the help of GTE, was founded by a group of 20 individuals with disabilities who wanted to become more self-sufficient and help support their families and settled on starting a stationery store.
“When we began, we didn’t know much about business at all. Some of us who were more able took the lead and took the training on business, commerce and leadership. GTE were the first people to open doors for us and provide us with training. Now we believe that we can succeed. They valued us and didn’t doubt us and saw us as people who were capable. For that GTE is like our superhero.” MILVER BRAVO ANDRADE, Legal Representative, Mundo Creativo
Artesanos de la Llana
Carmen Sorano is the President of the Artesanos de la Llana. When she moved to La Llana, (approximately 20 km away from GTE’s operations), she alone knew the special technique needed to weave traditional hats - a process that can take 4 or 5 days per hat. So, she decided to put her unique skill to use. After completing five diploma courses since 2012, Carmen came up with the idea and structure for running her current business more professionally.
“I’ve been teaching the others so now we all work on the same products using these techniques. It takes between four and five days to make a hat using this technique. This program was very helpful to us. Previously I never thought I would be able to do a business, but now it is possible to get ahead and have more confidence. We are all earning money now that we have this business – it’s not much but we hope to grow it and earn more in the future.” CARMEN SORANO, President, Artesanos de la Llana
Qualifying Welders for Job Opportunities: Certification Training
In Colombia certified welders are often in short supply in certain areas, such as the in the Middle Magdalena Valley (MMV) near GTE’s Acordionero operations. Skilled welding is a critical activity for any oil operation, and certification ensures that the thousands of welds necessary are completed with the required skill to prevent leaks or other issues that could impact safety or the environment. To meet this need, GTE created a training program to certify talented welders from the San Martín area as qualified practitioners in the specialized techniques that are used for drilling and production operations.
Welding is one of the most important and high-skill jobs in the hydrocarbon industry, that traditionally has been dominated by men. GTE is working to change this. As a result of the collaboration between GTE and West Arco, Colombia’s renowned technical training institute, Anayencey Otalora Gamboa, a single mother of 3 children, was the first female qualified welder in San Martín – one of six people who participated in the program in 2019. Women like Anayencey, with no welding experience, now have the chance to participate and get certified through West Arco’s full time, six-month welding program at no cost. The program also includes an incentive salary, making it truly available to everyone. This level of specialized training is otherwise unavailable in rural areas and also very expensive for students, who must travel to Bogotá or another large city, and pay for tuition, room and board.
By the end of 2020, fifteen welders had been trained and certified through this program.
“One day I realized that I could be doing more than selling snacks on the street to provide a better life for my family, and I thought welding would be a good opportunity. Getting into the course is like winning the lottery because it unlocks another level of income for me. It is challenging and physical work, so men think that it will be more difficult for a woman, but I know I can do it.” ANAYENCEY OTALORA GAMBOA, Certified Welder
Agroemprende Cacao – Creating Markets for Local Farmers
After more than 50 years of conflict between the Colombian government and guerrilla forces ended in 2016, creating new, legal economic opportunities was essential to maintaining the peace effort. The cocoa industry was identified as a significant opportunity because it offers a legal alternative to the many farmers who grow illicit coca.
Colombia produces a particularly fine grade of cocoa (the seeds from which chocolate is made), which is in short supply in world markets.
The Agroemprende Cacao (Agroemprende) project started in April 2019 and is a unique regional initiative undertaken in the Putumayo department in partnership with Gran Tierra Energy, Ecopetrol and the Canadian Embassy in Colombia and implemented by the International Development Cooperation Society (SOCODEVI).
Agroemprende aims to improve the economic and living conditions of rural families through the production and promotion of cocoa, including through the expansion of the regional cocoa market chain. Ultimately, this project focuses on creating markets of scale for local farmers and will help them get their products to market.
Agroemprende does this through the development of three key areas of the market chain. The first area is through the strengthening of local farmer cooperative associations, known in Colombia as “local associative enterprises”, in five Putumayo municipalities. These ground-based producer associations will come together to pool their production and will aggregate purchases, storage, and distribution taking advantage of volume discounts and utilizing other economies of scale.
Second, farmer associations are connected to new collection and purchasing points that are managed by producer associations. These collection centres are located strategically among member farms to receive dried cocoa beans from association members and neighbouring cocoa producers. The centres will not only collect the dried cocoa beans, they will also buy the dried beans directly from the farmers and then sell the gathered volumes to large scale buyers and local markets – replacing the role of intermediaries, who usually profit significantly more than the farmers themselves.
Finally, the Agroemprende program will create one large regional cooperative association that gathers and represents local farmer associations. The regional cooperative association increases access to markets and competitiveness for local farmers. Cocoa crops are negotiated at a larger economy of scale and will have competitive access to national markets.
- 400 families will be directly supported through Agroemprende.
- In 2020, 286 families participated, and 13,000kg of cacao was produced.
- Beneficiaries are from Puerto Asís, Puerto Caicedo, Mocoa, Villagarzón and Puerto Guzmán.
- Beneficiaries will also see improved economic opportunities through the establishment of agro-environmental practices, climate-smart agriculture, agroforestry systems, and the implementation of new innovative technologies.
- The Agroemprende initiative has a specific focus on the empowerment and resilience of women in the cocoa business by developing and strengthening their technical capabilities. It also facilitates female access to land tenure so that they can become direct beneficiaries of existing and upcoming programs.
Carmen, a farmer in La Vereda Naranjito, a small town between Villagarzón and Puerto Asís, is a single mother. Carmen lives with her kids, aged 16 and 26, both of whom help her on their farm.
“Cacao is the most productive crop for me as it is year-round and offers the benefit of having a ready market. I can sell all of my production as soon as it is ready, which is not the case for my other crops. Since it’s working so well, a number of people in Naranjito have asked me how they too can get into the program.”
Cesar, pictured with his wife, is a farmer in Puerto Rosario, who maintains a 15-hectare farm about 20 kilometres outside of Puerto Guzmán.
“Cacao is not new for us, but with this training we can significantly increase our yields and income, making cacao a perfect crop for us. In our region coca cultivation has disappeared by at least 80%; much of that is because it has been replaced with crops like cacao. If we can finish the job here and then replicate it across the country, the lives of thousands of people could be changed.”
Supporting the Peace Process
At the same time that Gran Tierra is helping local farmers, the company is supporting the government’s peace process in towns and villages by creating opportunities for demobilized former guerrillas to earn money as they begin to establish productive lives within mainstream Colombian society. One way is by supporting the production of cocoa saplings for area farmers who are transitioning to legal crops instead of illegal coca.
Gran Tierra built four irrigated nurseries for the production of cocoa plants in Puerto Asís in Putumayo and La Uribe in Meta. Ex-guerrillas are trained to ensure they have technical proficiency working with this new crop. The main role of each nursery is to be a fixed asset that can produce thousands of plants each year, including as many as 160,000 young plantlets. The plants are then cultivated, fortified and delivered to area farmers participating in the program. Technical support and additional training are provided by FEDECACAO, the national association for the cocoa industry.
“We were skeptical in the beginning, but GTE has remained present, supportive and fulfilled its commitments 100%. We now have fantastic infrastructure to implement the program as well as ongoing technical support and materials, so the program has been a success so far.” JESUS ANTONIO MARTINEZ, Representative of Agropal, an agricultural community association
“I was a victim of the conflict and was displaced from location to location without finding a shelter. This program has really changed my situation. This is a very good project because for many people who have grown illegal crops, this is a legal crop that can provide a good alternative.” HILARIO TORRES, Farmer, Puerto Asís
“From the beginning of this cocoa project the communities have been very satisfied. So far, where we have planted has worked very well. We feel as though we have received very good support from the UN, FEDECACAO and Gran Tierra.” Farmer and Ex-combatant
Supporting Economic Development in Rural Areas
The Project to Strengthen the Competitiveness of Rural Associative Enterprises, or PROCOMPITE, was a unique initiative supported by a partnership between Gran Tierra, the Government of Canada and a Canadian NGO, the International Development Cooperation Society (SOCODEVI) that finalized in 2019. The objective of this multi-year project was to promote sustainable economic growth in Colombian rural areas by strengthening the productive and entrepreneurial abilities. PROCOMPITE focused on providing technical agro-economic assistance to family-owned companies as well as administrative and commercial strengthening.
The project strengthened the productive and entrepreneurial abilities of agricultural producers by helping cocoa farmers and cattle breeders boost their yields, lower production costs, develop access to markets and improve their environmental protection practices.
PROCOMPITE Project Highlights 2015-2019:
The project was divided into four components.
Technical Component: Agricultural Education was provided to help teach cocoa cultivation and cattle farm management.
Environmental Component: The program implemented agroforestry systems and integrated agricultural and environmental practices in the training sessions. An Environmental Action Plan was also created to identify and mitigate any possible environmental impacts.
Gender Equality Component: The PROCOMPITE program encouraged women to be part of the agricultural management projects.
Business Organization Component: The program analyzed businesses and monetarily invested in businesses.
Training and Infrastructure Investments Increase Farmer Productivity and Income
Oswaldo Pantoja is both a farmer and the president of the Villagarzón Cacao Growers Association. He grows multiple types of crops, including cacao and a fruit-producing palm called chontaduro. This is a traditional Indigenous method of farming for better environmental balance and steadier cash flow. Cacao provides crops constantly, while chontaduro, which is a traditionally grown palm, provides fruit only once per year, causing dips and spikes in supply and demand, limiting the efficacy of chontaduro as a cash crop.
The PROCOMPITE program taught farmers new techniques, such as soil analysis, to improve production and also provides infrastructure investments like cacao drying facilities (pictured). This has enabled Oswaldo to optimize his harvest by more accurately utilizing fertilizer and analyzing how the water table levels might affect his crops.
The PROCOMPITE project also focused on helping farmers improve the marketing of their crops by forming an association. The Villagarzón Cacao Growers Association now has 64 members from different municipalities from around Villagarzón and Puerto Guzman. The project also led to the construction of a commercialization center where the farmers can sell their crops.
“ Thanks to Gran Tierra and SOCODEVI, we have eliminated idle time and are harvesting more volume, selling to larger buyers and increasing our incomes. As farmers, as we increase our production, we will also be generating employment opportunities and teaching people for free the techniques we use now. ” OSWALDO PANTOJA, President, Villagarzón Cacao Growers Association
Modernizing Ranching and Product Marketing
Another PROCOMPITE project supported by GTE involved cattle farmers in Villagarzón and surrounding areas. There are 80 families that directly benefited from the project and 422 families will indirectly benefit from the Villagarzón Cattle Association.
The project reached two goals: helped ranchers raise cattle more efficiently and helped them develop and bring to market alternative products that can increase their profitability. This training included branding, cost analysis and financial accounting as well as new methods of cattle ranching. Modern techniques include live fences, better soil use, and paddock division.
In their commercialization facility, the ranchers have learned to make new products such as a variety of cheeses and yogurt products from cows’ milk. SOCODEVI trained the association’s board every two weeks, with each session held at a different ranch. With better data being generated, the association can make more informed decisions leading to increased profitability. The association has begun to generate enough data to see if these new products, which have been received well so far, will be more profitable than the milk used for the cheese and yogurt, or whether they will need to adjust their approach.
“ We have gone through a very difficult period due to the previous violent period. Now we’re starting the process of recovery and getting back to normality. Thanks to the Canadian embassy and GTE, this is the first time we’ve seen a program that has this kind of follow-up and benefits the people directly. SOCODEVI’s personnel and staff have helped us refresh our knowledge and update our techniques. SOCODEVI has personnel who taught us to use techniques that help us be more environmentally friendly – such as planting more trees, using soil more efficiently and increasing our awareness of water issues. Things like these are contributing to increasing productivity. ” IVAN HERNANDEZ, President, Villagarzón Cattle Association